Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jamison Murphy

A better version of this story can be found HERE

"On the page it looked like nothing. The beginning - simple, almost comic. Just a pulse - bassoons and basset horns - like a rusty squeezebox. Then suddenly - high above it - an oboe, a single note, hanging there unwavering, 'til a clarinet took over and sweetened it into a phrase of such delight. This was no composition by a performing monkey; this was a music I'd never heard, filled with such longing - such unfulfillable longing. It had me trembling. It seemed to me that I was hearing the very voice of God."
-Antonio Salieri, Amadeus

Do You Hear the People Sing?
When I was in high school, I remember collecting 7" records, making necklaces out of Barbie heads, using my class presentation time to portray Aristotle as a stoner, and concocting lewd jokes about the Commedia dell'arte stock characters (also during class time). Pulcinella. Scaramouche. Arlecchino. Use your imagination.
Class clown? Socially contentious? Pain in the butt kid? Absolutely. I wore that badge with pride too. In the end though, I was still a dork. I opted out of AP Calculus my senior year because, well, it was my senior year. I also once told the assistant principal that he was "violating my 1st Amendment rights" by making me turn my t-shirt inside out, and was of the conviction that not handing in a bibliography page on time was an act of justifiable rebellion. I cut class one single, solitary time because a teacher had given me permission to do so. Apparently, I was not only a dork, but also a wuss.

Jamison Murphy is a kid. He's 14-years-old. Aside from possessing an intellectual and creative aptitude well beyond that of the average 9th grader, he is also unbelievably disciplined - something that I was, evidently, not when I was his age. His Facebook Bio reads as such:

I am 14-year-old poet, songwriter, and musician. I play a multitude of wonderful and weird instruments, many of which I incorporate into my songs. In 2008, I won the Savannah Youth Folk Songwriting Competition and was featured in an article in Savannah Magazine. I often play shows around Savannah, and I have performed at the Savannah Market Bazaar, The Sentient Bean, and many other venues. I have released two albums, and I am always making new music.

When the Beating of Your Heart Echoes the Beating of the Drums...
It is obvious that Murphy has a natural passion and propensity for music. I have seen him perform on a 6-string guitar, dulcimer and harmonica. I have heard him mention practicing on piano and 12-string guitar. His lyricism echoes the philosophical content of giants such as Goethe and Nietzsche. He is too young to get into bars and clubs. The first time I saw him play was at a house shown arranged by General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers. I was, well, completely floored. I had to leave the room. I stepped out onto the expansive porch of 121 W. Jones St., and said, "I can't handle him." Devin Smith, General O's singer/guitarist replied in shock, "What? You don't like him?" My answer was simply, "No. It's not that. That kid is freakin' Mozart." It was a rather humbling experience.

Last month, a few of us threw a surprise house show party for a friend's birthday. Venice is Sinking was gracious enough to trek all the way from Athens to Savannah for the event, and our good fortune also gave us the awesome performances of Anna Chandler and Duncan Iaria (General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers), and Murphy as well. Jamison played an ample set of originals, all of which he affectionately introduced to our intimate audience. He attributed the influence of one of his tunes to jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, whose offbeat style of playing my ear could barely comprehend until I'd hit the ripe old age of 22.

It turns out that Mr. Murphy is quite the jazz fan, and feels that Monk's music is the color green. I told him I thought that Charles Mingus' is burgundy. We shared a few notions pertaining to the color orange, or jazz trumpetist Dizzy Gillespie. That brief exchange with Jamison was quite possibly the best conversation I'd ever had about jazz. The time has come for me to find a note on which to end this story. In addition to being precocious, humble, enthusiastic and eager to learn, Jamison Murphy is also . . . a really nice kid.

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